One in seven hospital Medicare patients experience errors in medical treatment. But these mistakes also occur throughout the health care system to all patients in hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, doctor’s offices nursing facilities pharmacies and in a patient’s home.
Medical errors involve all parts of heath care such as medications, surgery, diagnosis, medical equipment, or laboratory reports. Routine tasks, such as providing the proper diet in a hospital, can constitute a personal injury error.
There are many reasons malpractice occurs in the nation’s complex medical system. But communication between providers and patients are a significant cause. Taking an active part in your treatment can help prevent mistakes.
Patients must communicate their concerns and questions when medication is prescribed. You must tell all your doctors about every medicine you are taking. In addition to prescriptions, inform your doctor about over the counter medications, supplements, vitamins, and herbs.
Take all your medicines and supplements to doctor visits. This fosters communication, uncovers problems, and keep your records current. Tell your doctor about any allergies and reactions you had earlier to medications.
Make sure you can read the doctor’s written prescription. This also assures that the pharmacist receives the proper information.
At the doctor’s office and pharmacy, you should ask:
- What condition is the medicine is being prescribed for.
- Instructions on when and how to take the medicine and how long it should be taken.
- If there are side effects and what to do if they occur.
- If the medicine is safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements being taken.
- If there is any food, beverages or activities that should be avoided when taking the medication.
At the pharmacy, you should also:
- Confirm that the medicine is what was prescribed.
- Clear up any confusion about the label’s directions.
- Ask about the best device for measuring liquid medicines such as marked syringes because teaspoons are inaccurate.
- Obtain written information about potential side effects so that you are prepared.
At the hospital
Handwashing helps prevent the spread of infections. You may ask all health care workers to wash their hands before they touch you. You can also protect yourself by washing your hands or using hand sanitizer.
During hospital discharge, ask your doctor about the follow-up treatment plan. Seek information about new medications, follow-up visits, when you can resume regular activities and if there are any restrictions on the medicine you took before your hospital stay.
Assure that your physician and surgeon agree precisely on what will be done. This can help errors such as wrong site surgery.
If you can, select a hospital where many patients had the procedure performed. Patients are more likely to have better results in facilities that have substantial experience with their condition.
Never forget that you have the right to question anyone who plays a role in your care. Do not hesitate questioning or sharing your concerns. These other steps may be important:
- Have someone, such as your primary care physician, coordinate your care which is important if you are hospitalized or have many health problems.
- Verify that all your health care providers have your important health information.
- Have a family member or friend go to appointments with you because their help may be needed later.
- Verify that the treatment or test is needed because more care is not always be better care and you may be better off without it.
- Ask how and when you can learn about test results because bad results may not have been provided to you.
- Ask your providers about condition and treatments and reliable sources that you can review.
Medical errors can have serious and expensive consequences. Attorneys can help patients and their families seek compensation if there was medical malpractice.